Love and FriendshipCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Love and Friendship is Whit Stillman’s fantastic adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, which spotlights the timeless nature of her calculating tale.
At its heart, the film captures the devilishly deceptive essence of Lady Susan, an act Kate Beckinsale achieves with effortless charm in a role that fully realises the tremendous talent she possesses as an actress. Lady Susan descends on Churchill to stay with her late husband’s family whilst attempting to find a financially suitable match for her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Here enters Tom Bennett’s noteworthy interpretation of Frederica’s suitor, Sir James Martin: a divisive role that sees Bennett blunder around, shouting his lines with such gaiety the audience can not help but laugh at his mere appearance on screen.
Love and Friendship delivers one of the most entertaining portrayals of upper-class mannerisms, made possible by such a comedic cast. James Fleet condenses his signature bumbling-English-gentleman role to create the worried Sir Reginald DeCourcy, Justin Edwards delights as the amenable yet repetitive Charles Vernon, Decourcey’s son in law, and Stephen Fry gives an expectedly powerful cameo as Mr Johnson.
As the film progresses it becomes apparent that Lady Susan is thwarting her daughter’s chance of love in consideration of her own suitor. She plays the charming Reginald DeCourcy (a feat from Australian Xavier Samuel) alongside the “divinely attractive” Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin), whom Stillman stylises with his dry humour by not giving him a single line.
Often a challenge of period adaptations is maintaining the narrative thread within the dated language, here an achievement supported by Lady Susan’s friendship with co-conspirator Alicia Johnson, aptly played by Chloë Sevigny. The film sees Beckinsale and Sevigny reunited for the first time since The Last Days of Disco, also directed by Stillman. Although both actresses hold a very different style, this compliments on screen by providing an infectiously conspiratorial relationship.
Accompanied by a classically theatrical score by Benjamin Esdraffo and cinematography that is constant in its crisp simplicity, Love and Friendship aptly captures the feel of Regency England – albeit shot in Ireland. Delightfully astute in 18th century etiquette, Stillman’s screenplay dances with Austen’s tradition and elevates it through quick wit and on-point timing. It is impressive, for an American director, to release the full potential of Austen’s daring words with such success: Stillman and Austen are a match made in heaven.
Love and Friendship is released nationwide on 27th May 2016.
Watch the trailer for Love and Friendship here: